UPDATED: Accused Mass Murderer Scott Dekraai to Plead Guilty, Attorney Says

Dekraai is facing a possible death sentence for the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre -- the worst mass killing in Orange County history.

Scott Dekraai. Patch file photo.
Scott Dekraai. Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 4:23 p.m. April 28, 2014. Edited with new details.

City News Service

The man accused of murdering seven people inside a Seal Beach salon and one man in the parking lot outside the business -- in the worst mass killing in Orange County history -- will plead guilty, his attorney announced in court today.

Scott Dekraai, 44, is facing a possible death sentence for the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre at the Salon Meritage. His attorney, Scott Sanders of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, said Dekraai decided to enter the plea this Friday to spare the victims' families from enduring a trial.

Sanders had said previously that Dekraai would be willing to plead guilty if prosecutors dropped the death penalty as a possible sentence.

Dekraai's plea on Friday, however, will not include any deal with prosecutors, meaning he could still be sent to Death Row.

"Nothing's changed," Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons said of his office's decision to seek the ultimate punishment for Dekraai.

"We've said from the get-go this is a death penalty case. So, from our perspective, nothing's changed," he said.

The other alternative for Dekraai is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bethany Webb, sister of victim Laura Lee Webb Elody and daughter of the lone survivor, 75-year-old Hattie Stretz, said the main benefit to the plea is the change in the defendant's status.

"I think one of the best things about this is we can stop referring to him as the accused," Webb said. "He'll be referred to as the murderer he is."

Webb said she opposed the death penalty before her sister was killed and has not changed her mind because in part she fears an innocent person could be put to death.

"I don't believe two wrongs make a right," Webb said. "I don't think the worst thing that could happen to him is he gets (overdosed) to death. That's not what my sister got or the other seven people got."

Paul Caouette, son of victim David Caouette, said the defendant's plea matters little because the guilt phase of the trial would be fairly quick and uncontested anyway.

"I personally don't feel any relief, but him accepting it is something he should have done a long time ago," said Caouette, who hopes Dekraai is sentenced to death.

Sanders said his client began discussing the plea with him last week as they were preparing for the guilt phase of the trial planned for June.

"He's felt he really needs to give the victims the sense he's not seeking to have this go on forever," Sanders said of the most recent legal wrangling in the case. "He wants (victims' families) to know he's ready to accept that he's going to spend the rest of his life in prison ... The families will know once he pleads he's never getting out, he's never arguing to get out."

According to his lawyer, the defendant was also mindful of not wanting to "waste the court's time" because he has "a lot of respect" for the judge in the case, Thomas Goethals.

Sanders has been at the center of a weeks-long hearing challenging the prosecution's use of jailhouse informants -- in Dekraai's case and others. Prosecutors announced last week they would not use a recording of Dekraai made by a jailhouse informant during the trial that makes it sound as if the defendant was bragging about the shootings.

Informant Fernando Perez made the recording in October 2011, about a week following the Oct. 12, 2011, massacre at the Salon Meritage.

Dekraai's attorneys began seeking information about Perez and how he came to make the recording in January 2013. Those efforts ultimately led defense attorneys to file a more than 500-page legal motion in February 2014 alleging a conspiracy of government misconduct to seek to have the death penalty taken off the table, prevent jurors from hearing the recording and get the Orange County District Attorney's Office booted from the case in favor of the state Attorney General's Office.

Goethals has been hearing evidence on the motion since last month.

Dekraai is charged with eight counts of murder, including the special circumstance allegation of multiple murders, and one count of attempted murder involving Stretz, who survived her injuries.

He is accused of walking into the salon and gunning down his 48-year-old ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, before opening fire on others inside the business.

Also killed were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Elody, 46; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; Christy Wilson, 47; and David Caouette, 64, who was gunned down in his Land Rover in the parking lot outside the salon.

Greg K April 29, 2014 at 08:49 AM
I don't feel this is a case where there can be any doubt regarding his guilt and therefor he should be put to death. It appears he fears losing his life for his crimes against society to the degree that his legal 'team' is manipulating, massaging, and weasling the system to keep him around. He's NOW concerned for the surviving familes, being a burden on the court system, and "respectes" the judge? Why didn't he have enough 'concern' before any of this happened and just eat the barrel of his own gun?! An eye for an eye...and save the counter-argumentative reply of "And vengeance is mine..."
Ben Goldberg April 29, 2014 at 09:41 AM
The only argument for not having the death penalty is the fear that an innocent person is put to death by mistake. This is clear, Death Penalty is the only fair and just punishment for this terrible crime.
Jeffrey Hathcock April 29, 2014 at 03:12 PM
So, the bastard pleads guilty, eh? How else could this piece of crap plead? This man should have been tried and executed years ago, but, instead, he and his attorneys were allowed to manipulate the system along with a weak judge who allowed them to get away with it. These "virtuous defenders of the law" don't give a rats ass about the victims! All they care about is getting their client off on a lesser charge so that it will look good on their resume. Dekraii's attorneys have known all along that he's guilty. Hell, he confessed when he was caught, he had the murder weapon in his possession and he was seen by eyewitnesses. Why has this judge allowed Dekraii's attorneys to get away with this flauting of the law? I said it once and I'll say it again. When we voters vote for a judge we know nothing about his or her record. A summary should be posted somewhere in the ballot pamphlet so that voters will know never to vote for a liberal idiot like this judge! I hope Dekraii still gets the death penalty because nothing short of death is good enough for this scum!
The Beast ! May 01, 2014 at 06:25 AM
Just because he requested no death penalty does mean the judge will grant it. READ !
Penny Arévalo May 02, 2014 at 01:15 PM
He just pleaded guilty http://losalamitos.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/its-official-dekraai-pleads-guilty-to-ocs-worst-mass-murder


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »